|Storm damage in Henryville. State Farm photo.
On March 2, an historic outbreak of storms unleashed dozens of tornadoes in 11 southern and central states, killing more than 40 and injuring hundreds more.
That was on a Friday. By Monday, the Cincinnati-based George Fern Exposition and Event Services had set up a fund to help storm victims through the Red Cross. The company made an initial contribution of $5,000 and pledged to match employee contributions until March 31. (By the end of March, the total had reached $11,000.)
“The tornadoes hit two of our markets pretty significantly,” including the southern Cincinnati area, and areas to the north and northwest of Louisville [Ky.],” said COO Aaron Bludworth.
Even after setting up the relief fund, Bludworth thought there was still more that the company could do. (The company and its employees have a track record
of reaching out, we discovered when we wrote about Fern employee Jean Tracy’s volunteer work in Haiti.)
So Bludworth contacted the mayors of some of the hardest-hit towns to ask if the Fern’s tractor-trailers could be used as collection points for supplies. But the affected communities were already overflowing with support, Bludworth learned. “I moved here four years ago and I’ve been very impressed with how the communities were supporting one another.”
|Photo courtesy WHAS11.com
But in late March, Bludworth got a call about something that he was in a unique position to supply: carpeting, for temporary school facilities for about 500 students in Henryville, Ind., where a tornado had destroyed the junior-senior high school.
When carpeting has reached the end of its useful life for trade shows, it’s still in good condition, Bludworth said. In one day, his team pulled 22,000 square feet of carpet from their distribution center, and delivered it the next day to the temporary school facilities.
The school’s colors are blue and yellow; Fern couldn’t get carpeting in those colors together fast enough to fulfill the entire request, Bludworth said. Instead, students got the red-carpet treatment.
“The kids were out of school for a month,” Bludworth said, “I’m glad to be able to help them get back, and get their lives to where things are a little bit more normal.”